Date with an old favourite

Date scones. Photo by Gerard O'Brien
Date scones. Photo by Gerard O'Brien
My father was particularly fond of date scones and my mother always baked fresh date scones for weekend morning teas, interspersed occasionally with ginger gems.

Scones have taken second place to muffins in the past 20 years or so, but recently I've had a nostalgic yearning for a good scone and I have been experimenting in the kitchen.

Many batches of scones later I can definitely report it's the men who are very enthusiastic about date scones and compare them with scones their mothers made.

When dough made from wheat flour is kneaded, gluten strands in the flour stretch and the scone will be tough. Quick mixing and a brief kneading is all that is required.

Scones are quick and easy to make. It is not necessary to roll scone dough. Simply pat the dough out, cut and bake in a hot oven.

I have found that scones made with yoghurt are tender, soft and light.

For best results mix all the wet ingredients (egg, yoghurt and milk) together and add all at once to the dry ingredients. Keep the mixture quite moist, a dry mixture makes dry scones. Yoghurts vary in thickness and flours in absorbency so when mixing scone dough be prepared to adjust the consistency with a little more liquid or extra flour if necessary.

I prefer to cut scone dough into squares or wedges. Cutting into rounds and re-rolling the scraps overhandles the dough.

Mixing the scone dough in the food processor is very successful. However, a food processor does not chop dates well so I chop the dates by hand (kitchen scissors work well).

Date Scones

260g self-raising flour
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp baking soda
1 Tbsp caster sugar
50g butter, diced
200g pitted dates, chopped
1 egg, large, size 7
½ cup thick Greek yoghurt
¼ cup standard milk

Sift, flour, salt, baking soda and sugar into a large mixing bowl. Add the butter and rub it in with your fingertips to the consistency of rolled oats. The butter does not need to completely disappear.

Add the dates and stir to combine.

Place the egg, yoghurt and milk in a bowl and whisk or beat to mix.

Pour into the middle of the bowl of dry ingredients and use a table knife to mix to a soft dough that is almost but not quite sticky, then turn out on to a lightly floured surface.

With floured hands, knead briefly and lightly for 10-20 seconds. Pat into a rough square about 2cm high then cut into nine squares. For miniature scones cut into 16 squares.

Place the scones 2cm apart on an oven tray. There is no need to grease the tray or to use non-stick baking paper.

Bake in an oven pre-heated to 220degC for 10-12 minutes until risen and golden.

Transfer hot scones to a wire rack. Serve buttered on the day they are baked or freeze until required and then briefly microwave to thaw and warm.

Makes nine medium-sized scones or 16 miniature scones.

If using a food processor:

Sift the flour, salt, baking soda and caster sugar into a food processor. Add the butter and process very briefly until the butter is blended with the flour but is still about the size of lentils.

Add the combined liquid ingredients and pulse three or four times, stopping just prior to the mixture forming a ball around the blade.Add the chopped dates and pulse two or three times more. The dates will not be completely mixed into the dough at this stage, but they will be fully incorporated during the hand kneading and shaping of the dough.

Tip the contents of the food processor on to a lightly floured surface and knead for 10-20 seconds. This will ensure that the dates are well integrated into the dough. Pat into a square. Proceed as above.

Variations:

Orange and date scones.

Add the grated zest of half an orange to the scone dough when the dates are added.

Chorizo and chive scones.

Savoury scones with a bit of a bite, these are a real treat. Serve miniature scones with a pre-dinner drink or for brunch. A creamy farmhouse brie is excellent to serve with them.

Follow the recipe for date scones but reduce the sugar to one teaspoon, replace the dates with 100g finely chopped cured chorizo sausage, and a third of a cup of finely chopped spring onions or chives.

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